Following the tragic death of dance freshman Haruka Weiser on campus earlier this month, organizations from both UT and her high school alma mater in Oregon are raising funds to honor her life.
Before joining UT’s theatre and dance program, Weiser graduated from the Arts and Communication Magnet Academy (ACMA) in Beaverton, Oregon, a town just outside of Portland. In the weeks following Weiser’s death, ACMA established the Haruka Weiser Memorial Scholarship to support upcoming artists. ACMA principal Michael Johnson said the scholarship wasn’t initially an institutional effort, but one led by a caring community.
“Almost immediately there was a community interest to turn this tragedy into something positive,” Johnson said.
Portland jazz artist Tom Grant has joined the community in raising funds for the scholarship and plans to play a benefit concert in her honor.
The UT community has similarly come together to make gifts in Weiser’s memory. J.B. Bird, director of media outreach for UT, said in an email that Weiser’s family requested gifts be directed to the Haruka Weiser Memorial Fund.
“There has been an outpouring of support, and to date, more than 500 people have made donations,” Bird said.
Theatre and dance senior Nolan Thomas said after a period of department-wide mourning, faculty and students moved to looking for ways to honor Weiser’s life, including talks about raising money.
“A lot of funding things came up here and there, and a lot of events outside here and there,” Thomas said. “I think it’s helping. While it doesn’t necessarily provide true closure, it’s definitely making progress towards it.”
Bird said funds raised at UT will go toward a purpose to be decided by Weiser’s family.
“At an appropriate time, the family will determine how to best use these gifts to create a fitting tribute to honor Haruka at the University,” Bird said.
Thomas said he thinks the decision over use of the funds will be inspired by a combination of Weiser’s legacy and those affected by it.
“It depends partially on what would help the community heal, what would help honor Haruka as an artist, and what would help her family heal,” Thomas said.